BUFFALO – It wasn’t a normal NHL trade deadline for the rebuilding Sabres. No one was off limits.
“If you look at the majority of the teams, they got one guy maybe they’re thinking about moving,” interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters today in Tampa Bay, a day after the deadline. “We had almost half our team in the trade mill. We didn’t really know until yesterday.
“There was a lot of anxious moments. One of the players was telling me one of the guy’s hands were shaking at lunchtime. These guys are human, too.”
But now it’s over, and the Sabres, who’ve lost six players in the last week, including franchise goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott, can concentrate on their final 21 games.
Don’t tell Nolan the bottom-feeding Sabres have nothing to play for these last six weeks.
“Our playoffs basically start today,” he said. “A lot of guys’ contracts are up, positions to be won. There’s no such thing as there’s nothing to play for. There’s a lot of play for. They’re playing for their livelihood.”
With Ott, the team’s “backbone” gone, Nolan said “somebody else has to step up.”
Nolan compared filling the leadership void to junior hockey.
“When those, 19-year-old, 20-year-olds graduate, the 18-year-olds coming up got to take over the leadership,” he said.
Nolan saw some of the youngsters – Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers – eating ice cream together Wednesday.
“That’s the next generation,” he said. “They’re quality kids and they’re quality players. They’re something to really look forward to.”
Nolan said winger Torrey Mitchell, acquired in Wednesday’s Matt Moulson-Cody McCormick deal with Minnesota, will play tonight against the Lightning, Nolan said.
The new players met the Sabres today.
Neuvirth will wear No. 34. He was originally slated to wear Miller’s old No. 30, something many fans didn’t like. Mitchell will wear No. 17.
Winger Cory Conacher, a Wednesday waiver claim, will join the team Friday. He’ll sport No. 88.
The legendary Dominik Hasek, one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, will be inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame on March 29 prior to the team’s home game against the Lightning.
Hasek played in 491 games with the Sabres from 1992 to 2001, becoming the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy twice (1997 and 1998). He also won Vezina Trophy six times (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001) and the William M. Jennings Trophy twice (1994 and 2001).
After leaving the Sabres, Hasek held the franchise record for games (491), wins, (234), shutouts (55) and lowest career goals-against average (2.22). He had a career-best 1.87 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 1998-99 while backstopping the Sabres to a Stanley Cup final appearance.